With an indicative EU budget of €500 million, the new I3 initiative ultimately seeks to helping actors involved in smart specialisation strategies (S3) to cluster together, scale up and bring innovation to the European market. A public consultation has been scheduled to collect the views and opinions of relevant stakeholders.
Outlined in the European Commission (EC) communication ‘Strengthening Innovation in Europe’s regions’ is the reinforcement of interregional cooperation for innovation between 2021-2027. A new Interregional Innovation Investment (I3) initiative has been proposed in this context which is aimed at helping actors involved in smart specialisation strategies (S3) to cluster together, scale up and bring innovation to the European market. It is, in a way, the next generation of EU territorial cooperation. The initiative, with a budget of €0,5 billion, will be implemented using European Regional Development Funds (ERDF). In the past, the fund was focused on policy learning with the Interreg project Scale Up as an example. The on-going project aims to improve policy instruments of each member of the project consortium through the exchange of knowledge and best practices. For the next programming period, common investment projects are envisioned as a way to mobilise ERDF.
For this reason, a public consultation was launched targeting all citizens and stakeholders of the EU interested in innovation driven growth, particularly those from regional innovation ecosystems including businesses of all sizes and in all sectors and business support organisations such as cluster organisations. The consultation was launched on the 30th of July and will last until the 30th of September. Cluster organisations and SMEs in particular are urged to take part in this public consultation. As Eurada and its members are also active in territorial cooperation, this public consultation is an important call to take part of.
The main objective of the new I3 instrument is to mobilise public private investment thus leveraging the impact of the given budget. The structure of the new instrument is foreseen within two strands, each having an equal share of the budget. The first strand targets well-developed ecosystems and focuses on the part of the value chains where weakness or market failures are identified (fragmentation, insufficient interconnection, financial or technological gap, interregional valley of death for the uptake of innovative technologies) and a solution could come from the interregional triple/quadruple helix cooperation. On the other hand, the second strand is specialised to cater to less developed regions and focuses on reinforcing the regional innovation ecosystems, unlocking under-utilised capacities, which could reinforce EU value chains. Theoretically, the target groups of this 2-strands strategy allow for a comprehensive approach in coordinating with clusters and stakeholders thereby increasing the networks formed within the initiative.
In general, the I3 instrument focuses on strengthening interregional industrial cooperation where the main priority is on links which advances the green and digital transitions. Investing in these strategic and future-oriented fields not only boosts EU competitive advantage but also creates resilient value chains which can generate growth across sectors. This conditions the EU to have a more competitive advantage on the global stage.
In terms of reinforcing interregional cooperation, a bottom-up mobilisation is viewed as the ideal way of organising stakeholders from local or regional innovation ecosystems who are more aware and involved with the research and production of innovative ideas or solutions. Furthermore, the bottom-up approach allows to create more synergies and complementarities with other initiatives at regional, national, and eventually EU level in the fields of Horizon, DSM, Space Program, Single Market Program, Life, Creative Europe, European Defence Fund and Next Generation EU.
As active practitioners of regional economic development and territorial cooperation, the public consultation is the perfect opportunity to help mold the future of the initiative. As Commissioner for Cohesion & Reforms, Elisa Ferreira notes: We want to know, among others, how this instrument can best support them at the various governance level, by involving different categories of regions and activating synergies with other EU funding opportunities. The opinion of stakeholders from regional innovation ecosystems in particular, is needed in this public consultation. This includes businesses of all sizes and in all sectors; business support organisations including cluster organisations; public authorities, including managing authorities; partnerships registered under the 3 Thematic S3 Platforms (Industrial Modernisation, AgroFood and Energy); higher education and vocational training institutions; science and technology parks; incubators and accelerators; technology transfer, intellectual property rights management advisors, and other innovation brokers; researchers and research organisations; civil society organisations interested in finding innovative solutions for societal challenges; public procurers; business angels, venture capital firms and other types of investors in innovative businesses; trade unions and employees’ organisations.
These stakeholders best know the information needed to questions such as which thematic areas the I3 must focus on, how the new instrument can best unlock interregional innovation investments, where the potential complementarities with other EU instruments and actions are, what the main market failures are that the instrument should address to facilitate investment by mature partnerships, and finally, what the main barriers are that the instrument should address to encourage the integration and development of value chains in less developed regions. These and more questions are presented in the public consultation’s survey form. Aside from filling in the Commission’s survey, Eurada members can further make an impact on the future of the I3 by contributing to the position paper which Eurada is preparing. This is headed by Mr. Christopher McInnes who is compiling additional information and contributions to the paper. Eurada’s position paper, as well as the Commission’s survey, will be open for contributions until the end of September 2020.
Written by Ivana Rae Almora, Project officer at Eurada